By PAULETTE LASH RITCHIE
INVERNESS -- Chance Sands was sitting at a computer in the Compass Lab, a computer-based remediation center at the Renaissance Center, pondering the lack of news media at his school.
Other schools have morning shows and school newspapers and here there was neither. "So, I started making one on the computer," the 13-year-old seventh-grader said.
Before he knew it he had a staff: assistant editor Justin Conner, 14, cartoonist Rafael Torres, 13, technical assistant Randy Wellbrook, 13, and other contributors.
The first edition "wasn't so good," Chance admitted, but "the second one and after started picking up pretty good. After the third one it was perfect."
Justin got into the news business because he happened to be sitting next to Chance after the newspaper's editor had his brainstorm. "Sure, I'll help you, man. That'll be cool," he recalled telling Chance.
Of course, the boys didn't instantly know how to put together a newspaper. That's where teacher Patrick Fogel came in. Fogel is the Compass Lab supervisor and the Renaissance News adviser.
"He taught me everything on the computer," Chance said. "When I started I didn't really know anything."
But Fogel gives his student a lot of credit. "He choose this program, and he's done really well." Fogel's job is to take care of the students' language arts remediation -- the mechanics of language, punctuation, organization and time management.
They try to do one paper weekly and have been working on the fifth edition of Renaissance News this week. "We try to get them done so they're out by Thursday or Friday of each week," Fogel said.
The students begin each edition with a staff meeting where they discuss what stories to cover. One recent story was about the dying fish in the seventh-grade fish tanks. It seems someone had overfed them.
There was a story about fishing and the team was thinking about doing one on teacher Orville Hahn, whose wife is expecting twins. "We write about things we hear about. We see things," Chance said.
Chance does the layout and Justin does a lot of the editing. He enters a lot of information into the computer and adds the graphics.
Cartoonist Rafael will be drawing Ralph the Mouse, a recent addition to the paper.
As technical assistant, Randy said his job is "stuff that they don't know, I help them with."
"He has advanced computer skills," Fogel said. "He also shows me a thing or two ... or three."
Principal Dave Cook is very pleased with the new media at his school. "It's a very innovative newspaper," he said. "The school looks forward to each new edition. It's got a good sense of humor about it."
There is more to the whole project than putting out a paper, though. It has been a tremendous boost to the students. "I've seen the kids take on a sense of responsibility they didn't have before," Fogel said. "One thing I've really seen with them here is self-esteem. A lot of times it's really hard to get the kids motivated."
It appears the only worry caused by the Renaissance News might be reserved for Citrus Times editor Jim Ross. Chance, who sips water from a Styrofoam coffee cup "to look the part," said, "I want his job."
© 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
490 First Avenue South St. Petersburg, FL 33701 727-893-8111